Conor Oberst charts at No. 15, The Faint at No. 45; Column 185 — Reviews return; Deleted Scenes tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:21 pm August 13, 2008

So how did Conor Oberst and The Faint do in their first week’s sales of their new albums? Here’s the skinny by way of Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt:

Conor Oberst’s self-titled album sold 28,546 copies last week, plus 354 copies prior to street date for a total of 28,918 copies. That’s good enough for the album to chart at No. 15 on Billboard. Conor Oberst also was the No. 3 best-selling download on iTunes, moving 9,941 digital units.

The Faint’s Fasciinatiion sold 11,333 last week, plus 222 copies before street date for a total of 11,584 copies — good enough to claim the No. 45 position on the Billboard charts. Fasciinatiion also was the No. 15 best-selling download on iTunes, moving 3,250 digital units.

FYI, digital downloads are included in the overall total sales number. Thanks again to Mr. Fratt for the data. Overall, an impressive first week by both artists. I think you could see both albums continue to climb the charts, but especially Fasciinatiion, which has had less pre-release media attention, and is only now getting the notice it deserves.

This week’s column combined info about The Reader‘s introduction of CD reviews next week with Monday’s blog-entry review of the Shiver Shiver show. Here’s the stuff you haven’t seen yet.

Column 185: Comparatively Speaking
Reviews return…

We’re starting up CD reviews again next week at The Reader. It’s something that’s been talked about for, well, as long as there’s been a Reader. But for whatever reason, it just never happened. The last time we tried it, the editor-in-charge passed along a handful of some of the worst local recordings ever made and told the writers to “have at ’em.” Not surprisingly, no one wanted the arduous task of subjecting themselves to an hour’s worth of the city’s most derivative second-rate drivel and then try to glean something meaningful out of it. The music scene has come a long way since then, or so we’ll see next week.

Here’s a little secret about music journalism — it’s harder to write a concise 100-word CD review than it is to write a 1,000-word band profile. Much harder. Yes, for profiles it does take time to schedule and interview a (hopefully lucid, coherent) band, then listen to their music and come up with a hook to make it all worth reading. But you’ve got quotes and one-sheets (industry speak for a band’s press release) to help piece it together. The hardest part is describing the band’s sound without stringing together a list of comparisons, such as “The opening track sounds like up-tempo Pixies meets low-fi Pavement with howling vocals by The Kinks…” It’s sloppy, lazy journalism that I’m as guilty of doing as anyone. No good band ever wants to be compared to anyone else, especially if the comparison is dead accurate.

But have you ever tried to sit down and describe music without using comparisons? Think about it. It’s like trying to make a sculpture out of mist — all the tangible elements are all in your head, and when you try to mold them into something concrete, they blur and become unrecognizable. That’s how dumb-ass, meaningless descriptions like “angular guitar work,” “powerful riff” and “yearning vocals” get created. Clichés become addictive, and fatal. The best critics in the world, like personal writing mentor Robert Christgau (formerly of the Village Voice, now contributing to Blender, Rolling Stone and MSN Music) in the fewest words can make you clearly understand exactly what he thinks about a band’s music. For example, his take on the new Death Cab for Cutie album: “Unfailingly melodic, surprisingly dynamic, somewhat overextended love problems, and if he’s so smart why doesn’t he shelve music and solve them?”

Christgau gave that album an “honorable mention.” I have no idea if we’ll be using a rating system (I hope so). Our focus will be mostly on local releases, but there also will be reviews of notable national releases thrown into the mix. I write this as an incentive to the editors to actually follow through this time. Think it’ll work?

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. Washington/Brooklyn indie-rockers Deleted Scenes plays with local walking muppets Talkin’ Mountain, Hyannis and White Elephant Gift Exchange. What I’ve heard on the DS myspace is mighty good. $6, 9 p.m.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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